Saturday, October 02, 2010

What have you done?

A few days passed as best they could; my only friend was the forest and
the great loneliness. Dear God! I had never before known what it was to
be so alone as on the first of those days. It was full spring now; I had
found wintergreen and milfoil already, and the chaffinches had come (I
knew all the birds). Now and again I took a couple of coins from my
pocket and rattled them, to break the loneliness. I thought to myself:
"What if Diderik and Iselin were to appear!"

Night was coming on again; the sun just dipped into the sea and rose
again, red, refreshed, as if it had been down to drink. I could feel
more strangely on those nights than anyone would believe. Was Pan
himself there, sitting in a tree, watching me to see what I might do?
Was his belly open, and he sitting there bent over as if drinking from
his own belly? But all that he did only that he might look up under his
brows and watch me; and the whole tree shook with his silent laughter
when he saw how all my thoughts were running away with me. There was a
rustling everywhere in the woods, beasts sniffing, birds calling one to
another; their signals filled the air. And it was flying year for the
Maybug; its humming mingled with the buzz of the night moths, sounded
like a whispering here and a whispering there, all about in the woods.
So much there was to hear! For three nights I did not sleep; I thought
of Diderik and Iselin.

"See now," I thought, "they might come." And Iselin would lead Diderik
away to a tree and say:

"Stand here, Diderik, and keep guard; keep watch; I will let this
huntsman tie my shoestring."

And the huntsman is myself, and she will give me a glance of her eyes
that I may understand. And when she comes, my heart knows all, and no
longer beats like a heart, but rings as a bell. I lay my hand on her.

"Tie my shoe-string," she says, with flushed cheeks. ...

The sun dips down into the sea and rises again, red and refreshed, as if
it had been to drink. And the air is full of whisperings.

An hour after, she speaks, close to my mouth:

"Now I must leave you."

And she turns and waves her hand to me as she goes, and her face is
flushed still; her face is tender and full of delight. And again she
turns and waves to me.

But Diderik steps out from under the tree and says:

"Iselin, what have you done? I saw you."

She answers:

"Diderik, what did you see? I have done nothing."

"Iselin, I saw what you did," he says again; "I saw you."

And then her rich, glad laughter rings through the wood, and she goes
off with him, full of rejoicing from top to toe. And whither does she
go? To the next mortal man; to a huntsman in the woods. 
From PAN by Knut Hamsun, translated
by W. W. Worster  
W. W. Worster writes this about Knut Hamsun:
Pan (1894) is probably Hamsun’s best-known work. It is a love-story, but of an extraordinary type, and is, moreover, important from the fact that we are here introduced to some of the characters and types that are destined to reappear again and again in his later works.
Nagel, the exasperating irresponsible of Mysterier, is at his maddest in his behaviour towards the woman he loves. It is natural that this should be so. When a man is intoxicated his essential qualities are emphasized. If he have wit, he will be witty; if a brutal nature, he will be a brute; if he be of a melancholy temper, he will be disposed to sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings.
We see this in Pan. The love-making of the hero is characterized by the same irrational impulses, the same extravagant actions, as in Sult and Mysterier. But they are now less frequent and less involved. 

The book as a whole is toned down, so to speak, from the bewildering tangle of unrestraint in the first two. There is quite sufficient of the erratic and unusual in the character of Glahn, the hero, but the tone is more subdued. The madcap youth of genius has realized that the world looks frigidly at its vagaries, and the secretly proud “au moins je suis autre” — more a boast than a confession — gives place to a wistful, apologetic admission of the difference as a fault. Here already we have something of that resignation which comes later to its fulness in the story of the Wanderer with the Mute.

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